Mental Illness and Your Town: 37 Ways for Communities to Help and Heal
May is Mental Health month, and what better way to observe it than to get people in your community involved by providing them with a better understanding of mental illness.
“Mental Illness and Your Town” is the perfect solution to communicating the message of mental illness and how communities can work together to improve the situation for everyone involved. It is an idea book—37 ideas for helping communities understand mental illness and provide better services for those with mental illness. Some of the ideas may seem like common sense, but author Larry Hayes, long time advocate for those with mental illness, points out the lack of coordination, understanding, and responsiveness within communities for those who suffer with a mental illness. This book is for the family members, those with mental illness themselves, the community, social workers, lawyers, police, doctors, nurses and anyone who may come in contact with or help someone who has a mental illness. That means you! It means everyone. As Hayes explains, one in ten people during their lifetimes will suffer from mental illness. If it’s not you, it will be a loved one. We can all benefit by learning as much about mental illness as possible and being advocates for those with mental illness.
Integral to educating people about mental illness is dispelling myths. Hayes points out that mothers do not cause mental illness, although their depression may affect a child’s development of it. However, it is just as likely a mother can prevent mental illness in her child. Hayes states, “Nurture mental wellness in a new mother and she then can nurture it in the child. Mom isn’t the culprit. She can be a child’s best therapist.” Another myth to dispel is that those with mental illness cannot function in society. In fact, many can hold down jobs and those who work at least part-time feel better about themselves, appreciating the chance to feel self-reliant. If holding down a job is too difficult or frightening for someone with mental illness, the person can volunteer his services, thus still achieving self-esteem without as much pressure.
Anyone interested in mental illness needs to read “Mental Illness and Your Town.” I cannot do justice in this space to all the ideas Hayes presents—some may work for all communities, some for just certain communities, but they are a rich number of solutions to the absent or insufficient help for those with mental illness that many communities provide. Hayes describes the shortcomings of many current suicide prevention hotlines and how a community can create its own successfully. He provides advice for parents on estate planning so their adult child with mental illness will be provided for after their death. Hayes advocates and explains how to recruit those with the power to recruit others, from journalists to lawyers, politicians, to judges, and the police. He provides details on creating conferences for the police, doctors and nurses about how to interact with those who suffer from mental illness. Awareness is key to understanding mental illness; Hayes provides numerous means to raise awareness from creating brochures and mental health directories to larger projects like setting up a Depression Center or a clubhouse for people who suffer from mental illness to go to be themselves and gain self-esteem.
Author Larry Hayes knows what he speaks about. He is honest from the first page, speaking without shame about his own bouts with depression and his son’s mental illness. Hayes was once hospitalized for six weeks for depression and he has undergone twelve shock treatments. His son has been suicidal, but with love, understanding and help from his family and community, he has functioned in society. Hayes is himself an award-winning columnist who wrote editorials in Fort Wayne’s Journal Gazette for over a quarter century to provide education to people about mental illness. He has been involved in numerous groups, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). He was fundamental in forming the Carriage House, a highly acclaimed rehabilitation center, in creating the Suicide Prevention Council, and in starting a countywide Mental Health Coordinating Council. He also successfully lobbied Indiana University Purdue University, Fort Wayne to create the Institute for Behavior Studies.
“Mental Illness and Your Town” concludes with a final chapter that offers guides to inventing a new system to deal with mental illness and provide treatment and resources for those who suffer from mental illness. An annotated list of resources, both books and websites, concludes the book.
Readers who know nothing about mental illness will come away feeling not only more informed, but thoughtful about the people they have known with mental illness, and they will want to learn more about this often misunderstood illness that affects everyone directly or indirectly. Those already involved in helping people with mental illness will find fresh, well-thought out ideas to further their efforts, and finally, those who suffer from mental illness will find reassurance that people do care and want to understand, and that the lines of communication have been opened wider because Larry Hayes wrote “Mental Illness and Your Town.”
For more information about “Mental Illness and Your Town,” Larry Hayes, and his work as an advocate for those with a mental illness, visit http://www.communitymentalhealth.us/
— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., author of The Marquette Trilogy
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